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Violation of Kuki-Zo women: President Murmu urged to immediately visit Manipur

Counterview Desk 

In an open appeal endorsed by over 3,100 concerned citizens, the top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has asked President Draupadi Murmu to immediately intervene for ensuring restoration of peace and justice in strife-torn Manipur and “support to violated Kuki-Zo women.”
The appeal, which had sought signature from other civil rights organisations and individuals, said, “It is absolutely unacceptable and unjustifiable that women’s bodies are used as sites of brutal violence by the State and supremacist, patriarchal forces.”

Text:

We the undersigned organizations and activists associated with the National Alliance of People’s Movements, numerous other progressive organizations and citizens from across India, write to you with a fervent and urgent appeal, in the light of the humanitarian crisis in Manipur.
For almost three months, the North-Eastern state of Manipur has been in a state of unprecedented turmoil and violence, owing to ethnic clashes and miserable failure of the Central and State Governments, in restoring normalcy. What began as popular resistance to the questionable proposal to include non-STs (Meiteis) in the Scheduled Tribes list, soon snowballed into a state-wide crisis of unimaginable proportions, with the Meitei and Kuki communities at the centre of the conflict. The trail of violence has left at least 150 people dead, entire villages razed down and tens of thousands of people displaced, amidst untold suffering for both the communities.
However, what seems to have finally ‘shook the nation’ and compelled the powers-that-be, especially the Prime Minister to ‘speak up’, is the recent viral video of three Kuki-Zo tribal women being paraded naked and sexually assaulted in full public glare, way back on 4th May in Kangpokpi district. In the same instance, the two male members of the family were killed by the mob. While an FIR was filed 2 months back, the first and (only) arrest happened on 20th July, after national outrage, despite the fact that a large mob of identifiable men can be seen in the video.
As per the Chief Minister, Mr. Biren Singh’s own chilling statement, this is just one instance which has come to light, out of more than hundred other such cases! Clearly, this is the ‘tip of the scary iceberg’ and a comprehensive inquiry is needed to ensure due legal process and accountability of violators and authorities in all such instances. Instead of clamping down on internet services, the Govt. must clamp down on the perpetrators of crimes.
Madam, it is absolutely unacceptable and unjustifiable that women’s bodies are used as sites of brutal violence by the State and supremacist, patriarchal forces. While the majoritarian mobs and police are directly culpable, the inaction and complicity of those higher-up in the echelons of power needs questioning too. Even institutions like the National Commission for Women (NCW), which have been in receipt of complaints of sexual violence and rape since more than a month refused to act for so long! The intervention of the Hon’ble Supreme Court has also sadly been a case of too little, too late.
It is extremely unfortunate and unforgivable that the most brazen and divisive politics is being played by the Government of the day and majoritarian, rightist forces, over the lives of vulnerable sections within Manipur, while allowing hate crimes to go on unhindered and unpunished. Infact, given their colossal failure, the Union Home Minister and the Chief Minister of Manipur must be asked to immediately step down, owning moral and legal responsibility.
Madam, we appeal to you; as a woman, as a representative of the adivasi community, custodian of tribal rights and a holder of the highest office under the Indian Constitution to immediately intervene in the light of these grave and deeply disturbing circumstances:
  • We urge you to immediately visit Manipur and interact with the affected people, especially the women who have suffered grave injustice and give them necessary assurance. The women of Manipur, especially from the Kuki-Zo tribal communities, need a calming, balming support which only someone of your stature can provide.
We also appeal to your good conscience to:
  • Call for a comprehensive and time-bound judicial inquiry into all acts of violence, so that all the accused who have perpetrated heinous crimes are arrested, including under SC & ST (PoA) Act, speedy trial and conviction, with life is ensured. Likewise, such an inquiry must fix the accountability of all law enforcement and political authorities, at all levels.
  • Ensure independent fact-finding, peace and justice missions of civil society are allowed to visit Manipur, especially the women, and the Government refrains from intimidatory tactics of stopping or filing FIRs against those visiting the state.
  • Uphold tribal rights and guarantee to the people that there shall be no unjust and arbitrary change in the list of the Scheduled Tribes, in violation of the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
  • We hope you will do all that is possible, as head of the State to ensure peace and normalcy is restored back, both in the hills and valley of Manipur, adequate safety is ensured to those in vulnerable situations, especially the Kuki-Zo community and all the violators, at all levels, are brought to book.
  • Amidst all this mayhem, the Union Govt. is also trying to make far-reaching amendments to forest laws of the country, which will result in massive diversion of forest land across India, including in the North-East, loot of forest resources by private-corporate entities and displacement of adivasis and forest-dwelling communities. We urge you to not assent to these amendments, if and when they come to you from the Parliament, and insist on compliance with provisions of the Constitution, Forest Rights Act, 2006 and other enabling laws.
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